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Toner Cartridges - What are the Different Types?

'Original Cartridges' or OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer)

What are they?

Info  New cartridges made by the manufacturer.

Tick  Cartridges produced by the laser printer manufacturer are designed and produced to the highest standards resulting in optimal print quality.
Tick  'Toner level' indicators function correctly.
Tick  Lower failure rates and less risk of ink leakages.
Tick  100% guarantee from the manufacturer.


Cross  The most expensive option.
Cross  To simply discard the depleted cartridge is ecologically unfriendly, given that alternatives exist.

'Re-manufactured Cartridges'/'Return Cartridges' and 'Compatible Cartridges'

What are they?

Info  'Re-manufactured Cartridges'/'Return Cartridges' are recycled versions of an OEM cartridge carried out by a re-manufacturer.
Info  'Compatible Cartridges' are produced by a third party manufacturer using new components.
Info  Shops/adverts may interpret the above definitions loosely, so if a buyer requires a specific type of cartridge, "Caveat emptor/let the buyer beware" - if in doubt always ask for details!

Tick  Readily available from online stores and significantly cheaper than OEM versions (typically 30-50%).
Tick  Reputable companies produce cartridges that print to a very high standard and come with a full guarantee.
Tick  Compatible with most brands/models of laser printer.
Tick  Recycling is good for the environment.

Cross  The overriding issue concerns Quality Control. The results produced by these types of cartridges are variable from below average to very good and depend on how diligently the re-manufacturer has checked and replaced any worn parts as well as the quality of refill ink used. Buyers should purchase from reputable companies that give full guarantees on defective products.
Cross  Higher fail and leakage rates are a possibility.
Cross  'Toner level' indicators may not function correctly.
Cross  Using these may invalidate the printer manufacturer's warranty.

'Refill Cartridges'

What are they?

 Info  They are simply cartridges that are refilled by using a Cartridge Refill Kit, or alternatively, services are avaliable that allow users to send an empty cartridge through the post to be refilled professionally.

Tick  By far the cheapest option available.
e.g. around £20 monochrome, £25 per colour and £95 for a complete set of four bottles of Cyan/Magenta/Yellow/Black.
Tick  Recycling is good for the environment. 

Cross  Can be messy and the user needs to be aware of health and safety issues concerning toner ink powder. Protective gloves should be worn when handling toners and a special ESD (Electrostatic discharge) toner vacuum type cleaner should be used to vacuum dust from inside a laser printer. Please refer to Laser Printers: Health and Safety.
Cross  Leakage rates may be higher 
Cross  Although the print quality can be good for the first refill, subsequent refills lead to a noticable deterioration in quality.
Cross  Page yield may be significantly less even on the first refill.
Cross  'Toner level' indicators may not function correctly. Cartridges usually have a microchips fitted which may need to be replaced when the printer says the cartridge is "empty". Depending on make and model of printer, the issue may be overcome by purchasing toner chips e.g. £7 per cartridge. 
Cross  Using this approach may invalidate the printer manufacturer's warranty.

Standard and High Yield Cartridges

Info  Finally, note that toner cartridges often come in standard size and high yield versions. These differ in the number of pages they can print and associated costs per page (cpp). Do remember though to always apply due dilligence before buying, as manufacturers may change specifications and also prices change subject to market forces. 

The following example looks at 3 different Epson M8000N cartridges to illustrate the differences in price, pages printed and cpp.

OEM black toner:  £200/15000 pages  which equates to £0.013= 1.3 pence cpp 
Re-manufactured black toner: £160/15000 pages which equates to £0.011= 1.1 pence cpp

High Yield
Re-manufactured black toner: £274/30000 pages which equates to £0.009= 0.9 pence cpp



1 History of Laser Printers
2 How do Laser Printers Work?
3 LED and LCD Printers - Are these Laser Printers?
4 Laser Printer and Photocopier - What is the Difference?
5 Laser Printer Paper - A3 Size and its Equivalent
6 Toner Cartridges - What are the Different Types?
7 Choosing a Laser Printer – How to Make an Informed Choice
8 Where to buy a Laser Printer and its Consumables - High Street v Internet
9 Basic Maintenance of Laser Printer
10 Who uses A3 Laser Printers?
11 A3 Laser Printers compared to A4 Laser Printers
12 A3 Colour Laser Printers compared to A3 Monochrome Laser Printers
13 A3 Colour Laser Printers compared to A3 Colour Inkjet Printers
14 Why does a Laser Printer cost more to buy than an Inkjet Printer?
15 Laser Printers: Health and Safety

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